The NBT Review 75

On Concrete – Pollyanna (Songs&Whispers)

In this rainy day world, kitchens are not for comfort, the sugar, the glow of Christmas treats cannot quietly heal a broken love. But, no! this is no doom and gloom thing at all, when we first hear this band, Her words lay out the facts with a wry acceptance, and his minimal harmonies give her strength.

This acceptance takes on an ambiguity in the next song, A Landscape,  her affair here destructive perhaps even fatal, and as she sings ‘..it doesn’t matter if it hurts..’ is that because its worth every bit of pain, or is it that she has, just, given up?  The swirls of Electric Guitar here are wonderful because they are simply implied rather than showy or overbearing.

The players switch easily from tender to torrid,(the instrumentation echoes this) sometimes within the same song, their vision of beauty is often spiked, even cruel, and then they switch focus on us and allow shafts of the darkly romantic to blur into the melodies, they make each song seem crowded with possibility.

Songs are allowed to build, to breathe, and to whisper through, notes follow on hesitant notes and the haunting takes place. The uneasy desire is stretched, the wanting tightens internally and like a Hitchcock film of the soul we long for the release the singer craves but cannot quite dare find.

When the traditional ballad ‘Railroad Boy’ slips into place, we the entranced, now haunted listeners are not surprised, these are all in their way death ballads, not always the death of the body though, sometimes the past, the cities, even how nature fades, but again I must stress, these are NO angsty things, rather tales of regret sung to clear the way forward to a different day.

There is nothing wispy about this modern Folk music. The more I listen the more I feel the vitality  of these intricate constructions.

It’s an easy album to fall for.

http://www.pollyanna.org/

Hear tracks from this album coming up on the NBT Podcast going out on the 8th July 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

The NBT Review 74

Laptop Campfire Speed – Marco Mahler (Independent Release)

Imagine sitting, as passenger, behind your beloved as they hurtle down the highway on their seemingly ancient motorbike. You have a worn hand held camera and you are making movies of all that slides past.

This is the soundtrack to that surreal blur.

Here the strange things, the dark even disturbing things, are camouflaged by the twinkled reflection of shiny minimalist pop, the hushed voice comforts, seduces, distracts, and  the weird is natural now, the abstract makes sense.

This music is as honest as architecture made for function and as a gift; it has that throb about it only found in CDs like this and airports at 3 am in the morning. It is a little girl turning cartwheels for her mother (the giddy chaos of her perceptions stretched, slowed down, made melodic) and the thoughts of that lover holding on tight and capturing the journey as you ride.  

Sometimes, the structure closes into the conventional, although of course that’s a Lou Reed late Saturday night conventional, that ambiguous drift from detached observer to a wry empathy, so that if you are working (for example typing frantic as I am now) and listening, suddenly the song stops being background, kinda demands you stop what you are doing, and focus on what you are hearing instead.

The composer trusts in the coziness of repetition , these are modern blues songs for the TV channel surfer ,as I flipped through endless variations of BBC One,( Ireland, Whales, London and so on) the staggered peculiar slide of the narrative reminded me stronglyof the Mahler song ‘I’ll Just Find A Million Other Things To Do.’’

Yes, this is yet another collection to treasure and to live with.

http://www.marcomahler.com/

You can hear Songs from this album on the NBT Podcast going out on the 30th June 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

If you use Internet Explorer you can stream snippets of a couple of the Tunes here

                               http://www.nextbigthing.co.za

  (After the intro Click on the ‘#Just want to look around# text it will take u thru to next page)

   A chart made up from browsers rating and listening to the song streams can be found here:

                                      http://nbttopten.podbean.com/

The NBT Review 73

Land Of Shadows – Ben Bedford (Hopeful Sky Records)

The story unfolds slow, delicate, unwinds from the sharply written focus of the first line, and shifts into the mood and soul of a young soldier from long ago, and the words take on a frenzy made tense as they are counterpointed by the gentleness, the regret, the empathy of the musicians. As we are led back, full circle, to the opening vision, we have to wonder is this a song of hope (that the beauty exists even as we kill each other) or a song of almost unbearable sadness because the memory evoked shows there is no way for our ‘hero’ to get home.

Welcome then to the Land Of Shadows, where ghosts are created as we listen. Where the naïve recruits, the worn out rejects, the wounded romantics, the doomed and the survivors all demand, with quiet insistence that their tales be told.

Musically the tracks are rich in subtle variation, dabs of accordion, banjo, dobro, fiddles and such, blend into the melodies, but no showboating here, no production tricks seeking unwanted attention.

This collection has something of the way that Springsteen has about capturing the soul of the so called Common Joe, but without the bombast that sometimes sneaks into his songs, these are no widescreen epics, these heroes do not fight or toil for death or glory, but to survive, to love again, to get home and live their lives, their desire is to carry on, and let the brutality wash away, if it can.

The paradox here is that these tunes are not depressing, rather there is something uplifting, even joyful in the hushed revelations. And when the singer tackles the love song (You’re The Weather, One Night At A Time) It is his skill with the tiny details that seem to make these things personal to whoever is listening.

I found this a joy to discover and hear. These are stories I will return to again and again.

http://benbedford.com

You can hear tracks from this album on the NBT Podcast going out on the 30th June 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

The NBT Review 72

The PanicKing – Million Dollar Mouth (Atonal Records)

It’s hard to be a pop star who wants to make thrilling three to four minute missiles of rock, keeping the hooks and the guile needed for mainstream airplay, but never losing sight of that tension and dirt that make for a rewarding Pow!! to the senses musical explosion.

Million Dollar Mouth belong in that sparse wasteland, somewhere between the loose jams of the independent and the too fine polish of the Adult Alternative crowd. This is a land where the tunes are crafted yes, but not for a second losing their fragile heart or their honest intensity.

In other words, their wasteland is a delightful place to be.

There is something comforting in the way they deliver a thrashing guitar melody, and counterpoint it with a carefully judged lead vocal that floats above subtle harmonies. In some reviews they are called tasteful, and while that’s well meant, I think it does them a disservice, because it implies that the band play it safe with their songs. This is so not the case, sure these are creations aimed straight to the heart of the chart, but they are also pulsing real things tensed up with pop steel.

The tension is the thing here, they write about darker times, scary times, where the soul shattered and picking up the pieces seemed an impossible task, then they gleefully shove in some messy dollops of hope and the ability of rock n roll to release you, if only for the time it takes the tune to unravel.

There will be some hip young things that will not listen here and that will be their loss, and there will be some that are taken by surprise and as the chords and voice and sonics sink in, find them selves thoughtful, even disturbed.

In a very good way.

Dig deeper

http://www.milliondollarmouth.com

You can hear tracks from this album on the NBT Podcast going out on the 30th June 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com

 If you use Internet Explorer you can stream snippets of a couple of the Tunes here

                               http://www.nextbigthing.co.za

  (After the intro Click on the ‘#Just want to look around# text it will take u thru to next page)

   A chart made up from browsers rating and listening to the song streams can be found here:

                                      http://nbttopten.podbean.com/

The NBT Review 71

Peter Comes From Neverland – Peter Comes From Neverland (independent release)

I like a twist in a newly born song, and the twist comes quickly on the opening track here (Trigger), starting off as what seems to be an acoustic shuffle, it explodes mighty prettily into a full blooded rock creature. Then the harmonies, then the slightly left of centre poppy tangle, oh yes, this is one of those songs that sound effortless, from thought to player as it were, but is tightly constructed, woven, into a perfect listening pleasure.

Next track, Airplane, is well named, it is that breed of tune that was made for introspection AND movement while Absorb turns the lights down low, shuts the bedroom door and seduces the intellect with a Grizzly Bear/Iron and Wine vibe.

The secret here, I think, is this singers tightrope walk ‘tween detachment and observation, and the intimacy of a small room performer.  A good example of this is the tune, Not A Beatles Song, which will soothe my hunger for a new Sufjan Stevens tune for a small while.

The EP plays out with the cool and satisfying strangeness of what sounds like New Order or the Cure going acoustic, Peter entrancing with that Robert Smith trick of setting mood for at least 80 or so seconds before a vocal is lightly added, allowing the song to build in mood and depth, so that the listener doesn’t want it to end.

The artist’s upcoming full album should be a revelation

http://www.myspace.com/petecovington

You can hear tracks from this EP on the NBT Podcast

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/songs_burning_brightly

 If you use Internet Explorer you can stream snippets of a couple of the Tunes here

                               http://www.nextbigthing.co.za

  (After the intro Click on the ‘#Just want to look around# text it will take u thru to next page)

   A chart made up from browsers rating and listening to the song streams can be found here:

                                      http://nbttopten.podbean.com/

The NBT Review 70

The Happy Masochist

Rust – Apollo’s Sun (STLP)

Various New tracks from forthcoming new album: Falling Becomes Great

As the random begins we see the composer staring out at a shuffling past, the mood is ambiguous, seems lazy languid except, the pictures invoked are so well sketched, defined, so haunting, that when he says the word Fragile, we can only murmur, ‘oh yes, and continue watching, listening.

This is an album about an artist looking back, looking around, to push gently forward as he takes notes, sets those notes into jazz and soul beds, sometimes adds heartbreaking melodies, this is an album creating those heavy sunset thoughts, driving slowly towards that redeeming sunrise epiphany.

As the piano in the tune, ‘Life Cant be’ slides a benign tension across the room, the crackle and fizz of a master story teller sinks into the way we lean into this music, the harmony and seduction is total, and we know that when the silence comes, the only answer will to be to scrabble for a new set or replay, replay and find the different secrets embedded there.

Then on to Rust.

When the sun sneaks into a cold room, we can see the tattered posters on the wall, see the wounded proud dust collection of cardboard and plastic greatness, timeless artifacts, a record collection made for Saturday night hedonism and Sunday morning review. This music is at once removed from the laughter and chaos of the gathering and street night and, also as a detached memory , perhaps, very much part of it.

The Writers chosen name is apt indeed, when I hear his music I see the colour gold, sometimes, or fire low orange, or yes, the scary defeat and strangeness of Rust.

For music that sadness is a coiled snake within the machine, there is no angst here, or fuzziness, or strident complaining for better things deserved, but rather sonic snapshots of bits of a life not often glanced at in this preening sometimes nervously insecure genre.

I believe this music.

Then right up to date, done as recently as June if the details on the mp3 are to be taken as gospel, I’m Doing Fine, is a wry yet uplifting groove, an optimistic feel pulses through. For this artist, it seems he has decided that the BATTLE of being independent, be creative, being this storyteller is a delight in itself, not a giddy scream oh yeah delight, but something deeper, stronger.

Rewarding.

All these tracks , these EPs deserve exposure,  discovery is essential.

http://apollossun.com

You can hear tracks from the EPs on the next NBT Podcast this 23rd June 2010

http://nextbigthing.libsyn.com/

                              If you use Internet Explorer you can stream snippets of a couple of Apollo’s Sun’s Tunes here

                               http://www.nextbigthing.co.za

                           (After the intro Click on the ‘#Just want to look around# text it will take u thru to next page)

                             A chart made up from browsers rating and listening to the song streams can be found here:

                                      http://nbttopten.podbean.com/

The NBT Review 69

Starlit Apocalypse

Air

Endless – SNMT (Black Flower Music)

Plus Brand new Tracks from an upcoming release

I decide to listen to this music in the basement of my postwar (forever tween modern and ancient) German small town flat. I have this feeling that the ambience of the musty dark room full of wounded and dead appliances will suit these tunes. That as the sounds drift over the discarded machines of fun and comfort, and cardboard boxes packed to overflowing with no longer loved or listened to vinyl and comics begging for a future generation to love them, the rust and the glitter, the oil and the blood contained within the ragged rhythms will reveal themselves.

I have Three sets to go through plus new songs yet to find a home, and as a tense grey storm brews out there on the street I press random, then press play, lean back against the hard concrete and let the musicians have their chaotic way with me.

So if you expect some sort of order, the stability of one collection then the next, you are in the wrong place. This is for the senses, for the emotions provoked.

Oh I love the slow crawl into AWAKE that the first tune offers, airspace full of the crackle and shock of the moody electric. On this Floating Bridge, one must tread carefully, because it shudders and this is no silent vacuum of stars, here the squeaks shoot out sharp, always tempting the delicate balance to betray itself.

In this Graveyard, the ghosts are bloated, stumbling raw, they puff outward abrasive, yet believe (to the very core or their distressed hearts), that they can hug you, wrap around your soul, blanket like. So they chatter picking fraught phrases from the static. They are lost and there is something beautiful about that.

Now it’s time to fly once more, into a drift that is both unsafe and gentle, a shy startled seductive trip somewhere Between Space. The calm is deceptive though and The Turbo Lolita burns, as she drags us into her, this is Ragnarok , but no Gods on this level, these are men women, demons swimming in the heat, the confusion of yesterday’s failed flirting and tomorrows heavy rampage. They throw out the thoughts in waves that, to LoveYou is to fall, is to surrender to this fine noise, to perhaps find the melody where you may and ride it deeper (not AWAY) but inwards.

Then abruptly the Charm of an orchestra full of the scared and the hesitant brave, take a seat in the empty auditorium watch the blur on stage, the colours shifting as the music finds ways to heal itself. the Deep White entices, you want to dream here, though the unease shifts, sighs in its sleep abandoned baby birds, (clockwork or digital or just projection?) nag at us, to not relax too much, don’t let the REM movement take over

With this music

You may never come out.

Find out for yourself how one band makes so much chaos and beauty. Download from a vast selection of great albums here

http://blackflowermusic.com

You can hear tracks from all these sets on the next NBT Dark Electric podcast going out on the 17th June

http://nbtdarkelectric.podbean.com/

And Black Flower Music will be the featured label in July on the http://nbtmusic.de website.

                              If you use Internet Explorer you can stream snippets of a couple of SNMT’s Tunes here

                               http://www.nextbigthing.co.za

                           (After the intro Click on the ‘#Just want to look around# text it will take u thru to next page)